It was good to chat with everyone from Ace Comics owner Martin to Comics International’s Mike Conroy. Ace Comics in Colchester has been planning to open part of the shop up as an art gallery for some time and had a little launch party on Friday evening. The evening was a huge success and not as boozy as you’d expect, although I learned the next day that the after-party chat went on until 4.30 in the morning. It has competed with the American cartoon industry that has mostly concentrated on the children of our culture, but now competes with the animated movies becoming more and more popular in present day. At that time, the construction industry was considering the option of using composite materials as a replacement of traditional steel. I tend not to talk too much about the careers of 2000AD creators once they’ve moved on – a job for other folks, I feel – but one can’t stress enough how Bryan Talbot in in the top tier of Comics creators of all time, dabbling in work for all ages and all genres, including perhaps the two toughest: social issues (see the Tale of One Bad Rat), and literary (see Alice in Sunderland).
Edward Holmes, the editor of the popular Knockout 꽁머니 weekly, struggling along at between 12 and 16 pages at the time, was assigned to create new titles for Australia in a comic book format similar to Murray’s American reprints. Printing in colour proved expensive and KG Murray eventually lowered his costs by turning them into black & white reprints of around 28-32 pages. Post-war, a new force in Australian comics emerged in the shape of publisher Kenneth G. Murray who, on the back of 꽁머니 successful magazines like Man Magazine, launched a number of new, locally-produced comic titles and, in 1947, began reprinting American comics in colour. Holmes was one of the more creative editors at Amalgamated Press, far more in touch with the market than many of his directors who, for the most part, had been with the firm for forty years and whose views of comics were shaped in the Golden Age of the 1920s. Holmes was keen to push adventure stories over humour in Knockout and his sensibilities could be seen in the line-up of yarns he began preparing for the A.P.’s new Australian venture.
These stories, like the tales which ran in the Australian comics, were drawn by Hugh McNeill, better known as a humour artist in the pages of The Beano, The Dandy and especially Knockout, where he drew “Deed-a-Day Danny” and “Our Ernie” amongst others. One solution to fight off this American invasion of one of their traditional markets was to produce a comic-or series of comics-directly for the Australian market. Australia was one of the biggest of Britain’s export markets when it came to comics but this all changed in 1940. Like Britain, Australia had been a dumping ground for remainder copies of American magazines (to the point where, in December 1939, a Senator in the Federal Parliament had claimed that imports were badly affecting the livelihoods of local writers and artists. Early titles from DC Comics (at the time known as National Periodical Publications) and Quality Comics included Climax All Color Comics (featuring Zatara from DC’s Action Comics) and Superman All Color Comic, establishing American superheroes in Australia.
Superman had briefly been imported (as were many US comics) as remainders in the late 1930s and had appeared (again briefly) in the pages of Triumph shortly before that paper became a victim of the paper shortage in the early months of the Second World War. Thunderbolt Jaxon was almost unique in British comics in that his adventures were not initially aimed at British youngsters and the influences that shaped his development were due to events both here in the UK and half way around the world. A couple of bits of news: the Frank Bellamy’s World War 1 book has turned up on Amazon for those of you wanting to pre-order copies. Since I began charting the circulations of children’s comics here on Bear Alley, BBC Worldwide have always managed to top the pre-school charts, with Toybox in 2007 and In the Night Garden in 2007-08. Although both titles got off to a very good start-ten years ago, Toybox sold over 200,000 copies per issue-both titles have had a disastrous year.